This week’s New Title Tuesday, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, is a really important young adult read that addresses multiple themes including family, depression, friendship, cultural and religious identity, and the overarching chaos of being a confused hormonal adolescent.
Publisher’s Summary: Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.
Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.
Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough—then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.
Adib Khorram is an author, a graphic designer, and a tea enthusiast. If he’s not writing (or at his day job), you can probably find him trying to get his 100-yard Freestyle under a minute, or learning to do a Lutz Jump. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don’t usually talk about themselves in the third person.
I have often recommended YA novels that I consider worthy of consideration, and Darius the Great is Not Okay is well-written and allows the reader an insight into another culture. I do not think I am alone when I admit that I enjoy when I happen to learn something while reading an emotionally compelling novel.
Parental Advisories: Although homosexuality may be surreptitiously inferred, there is no explicit action or wording. There is a discussion of the awkwardness the protagonist feels about being the only uncircumcised male in an Iranian locker room. There is limited swearing and no obsessing about romance or sex.
The important take-aways from Darius the Great is Not Okay is that family is important. Depression must be considered but not have to rule one’s life. One really good friend is a healing balm. Also, there’s tea. Yeah, the importance of a delicious cup of carefully brewed tea. You have to read to understand.
Darius has a great deal of trepidation about visiting his grandparents in Iran. There’s the potential threat of being accused of terrorism or generally being at the mercy of possible corrupt immigration officers. Plus, he doesn’t speak Farsi – although his younger sister is quite fluent and feels quite comfortable in her own skin. However, he has to learn that family, tradition, and love transcends his fears.
“Everyone wants you here. We have a saying in Farsi. It translates ‘your place was empty.’ We say it when we miss somebody.”
“Your place was empty before. But this is your family. You belong here.”
The best part is the message that people change, perspectives change, and that there is not just one script a person is fated to follow.
Happy Reading, Susan C.
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